When Values Collide

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

In looking back over the blogs Katrin and I wrote this year, I noted that “change” is a theme connecting most if not all of them. We discussed the urgent need for change, various levels of change, forces that propel change as well as those that hinder it. We examined the need to understand our own change-related assumptions. We offered suggestions for how to become change experts. And last month Katrin described an engagement with a client where she facilitated a change process. All along we have acknowledged that change is difficult. This month I will reflect on how recent change-related challenges have confronted me personally and what I have learned as a result.

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Ahead of the release of his new book Somebody Else’s Problem: Consumerism, Sustainability and Design, Robert Crocker examines the pervasive and destructive impacts of our consumption-driven social and economic systems.

Consumerism today represents an unprecedented crisis of values, in ethical, social and material terms. Never before have so many resources and so much energy been used to produce so many goods for so many people. And never before have hundreds of millions of people across the world been so ingeniously encouraged to buy, use and then throw away or upgrade – with increasing rapidity – what they have bought. This has resulted in a world of unsustainable material flows, and a world drowning in waste.

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10 steps toward organizational sustainability

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Author and consultant, Katrin Muff, shares an inspirational story from a recent day she spent facilitating an organization’s shift toward embracing sustainability and shared values.

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

What does it take to get an engineering company to embrace their care for a better world? Is it possible to provide access to the deeper meaning of sustainability to those who define it as either one-dimensional economic long-term survival, or as a predominantly ecological issue?

These were my questions as I prepared for my consulting day with a medium-sized traditional Swiss engineering company. The sustainability-fluent CEO had invited me to lead a workshop with his senior team, including the board, in a first conversation towards formulating a vision 2030 for a company that, in his view, had embrace sustainability. I am sharing here the step-by-step process of that very positive one-day workshop.

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Consumerism: Somebody Else’s Problem?

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What are the consequences of our addiction to convenience? How can we move beyond the belief that ever-increasing consumption is equivalent to progress? Ahead of the publication of Somebody Else’s Problem: Consumerism, Sustainability and Design by Robert Crocker, foreword author – Stuart Walker – considers why it’s time for a shift in priorities.

I was sitting on a beach in a sheltered cove in Greece. I was on one of the lesser visited islands and this place was quite secluded – a lengthy walk from the nearest road. The water was calm, the sky was blue – it was a perfect scene. One could imagine Odysseus dropping anchor in such a cove, and wood nymphs playing among the shadows of the tamarisk trees that came down to the sand.

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Why bother with sustainability if companies fail to consider Sustainable Development Goal 16?

The future of sustainability is focused around the new global Sustainable Development Goals launched in September 2015. Momentously, Goal 16 calls governments, business and civil society to:

“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Without peaceful, inclusive societies, sustainable development has no ‘enabling environment’. Yet, discussion of ‘peace and stability’ with many corporate representatives is often received with a quiet, “not really our responsibility” or “we don’t oTGG_Icon_Color_18perate in conflict zones”. But as part of a community, or part of a social ‘system’, business can work with other actors to support their peace efforts. Business contributions to peace are crucial for conflict-affected countries, as well as countries not seen as
‘conflict zones’ but which experience instability and low-level violence. Indeed business support for peace is important in all countries, and can include for example, supporting measures aimed at inter-cultural/faith/sect understanding and countering terrorism. If companies ignore how they impact (both positively and negatively) on a country’s conflict(s), and how they can proactively help prevent or mitigate violent conflict, what is the point of sustainable development when big business is such a key global player? And ultimately, peace means prosperity for both communities and business.  Continue reading

Responsible Investment in the 21st Century

The fact that the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) now has almost fifteen hundred signatories including over three hundred asset owners and nearly one thousand asset managers provides evidence that responsible investment is increasingly seen as a standard part of mainstream investment practice. Over the past decade, PRI signatories have encouraged improvements in the environmental, social and governance performance of the companies in which they are invested, and they have made significant investments in areas such as renewable energy.
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Courageous collaborations: how one plus one can be greater than two

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

Organizations have always been complex.   And in today’s world the enormity of our challenges calls for rethinking how our establishments operate.   In her March blog, Katrin discussed how structure and culture can equip an organization to address current and future challenges.   She argued that many may need an overhaul.  Her primary focus was on changing how the organizations function internally.   I propose that we should also consider how we relate to other organizations outside of our traditional boundaries.  I believe that collaboration across boundaries gives us the best chance of coming up with innovative solutions to at least some of our multifaceted conundrums. Continue reading